Writers and Plumbers

Why the long face?

Opinion is divided as to when writers were first associated with, and compared to, plumbers. 

The Greek philosopher, Ubendese, a contemporary of Archimedes, was an early example of a great thinker who could compose soul-searching poetry before noon and still sort out the house drains by teatime. Indeed, it is thought that he inspired Archimedes to combine contemplation with bathtub product testing, resulting in his eureka moment.

Some plumbers, throughout history, have rejected this ‘slur by association’, implying as it does that they might occasionally write fiction when it comes to providing an invoice. One thing is certain – the close affinity of plumbing and writing has lasted down the ages, resulting in the confusion we see today.

Some writers demand to be treated like plumbers, expecting tea and biscuits to be provided as standard. On the other side of the coin, some plumbers want to be recognised for their creativity and allowed time to dream – sometimes even time-and-a-half to dream.

So let’s clear the airlock once and for all.

Similarities between a writer and a plumber 

  1. They both look for the right angles.
  2. They can both use a pencil.
  3. They’re both in business and entitled to at least the legal minimum wage.
  4. They can both plumb the depths and need to remove blockages.
  5. They can both become involved in kitchen sink dramas.
  6. They both have pipe dreams and both bleed for their work (albeit with a radiator in one case).
  7. They both need to eat.
  8. They both endeavour to go with the flow. 

Differences between a writer and a plumber 

  1. As far as I know, there are no creative plumbing courses.
  2. Plumbers don’t need an agent, a social media presence or a brand.
  3. For a plumber, things going down the drain is a positive.
  4. You wouldn’t ask a plumber to fix a faulty ballcock, on spec, to raise her profile, or to add to his portfolio. And to solder for warm fuzzies.
  5.  Plumbers wear a boiler suit. Some writers wear a pot-boiler suit.
  6. There is a chronic shortage of qualified plumbers, whereas…
  7. It takes between two and five years to become a fully accredited plumber.
  8. One leads the vanguard and the other drives a van.

Remember, next time you have a problem with your float valve, don’t bother ringing for a poet – iambic pentameter isn’t going to help you.


Another successful day's writing.

There are certain songs that feature regularly on my computer playlist. One collection of songs relates to my Brit thriller, Standpoint, as a soundscape - a musical shorthand to evoke a scene or a mood. And there are some songs that are so hauntingly beautiful that I've loved them from the very first time I heard the tracks. It helps, too, if the lyrics convey something meaningful to me.

One such song is Who Knows Where the Time Goes? as recorded by the late Sandy Denny, and also by Kate Rusby (I love both versions) among others. 

Time is a thing of mine. My brother used to call me Johnny Stopwatch, after my habit of not wanting to be anywhere for long. Well, that and my admission that I had an unwritten three-hour rule for being in anyone's company - notable exceptions being him and Anne.

As a writer, time is important. Not only the quantity, but the quality too. Having a precious hour to write and yet not be in the right environment to write can be just as maddening as having no time at all.

Which leads me neatly on to that prince among time thieves: email. 

Where does a writer's time go when it comes to emails? Here's a breakdown of my email inbox for one day. Maybe not a typical day, but certainly a day chosen at random and there are no great surprises here.

Let the mathematics begin...

% of total

Writing forum
Blog related
PPH / LinkedIn / FB / Work
Comedy writing
Other (charity / info / etc)
Publishing related
Coaching / development related
People trying to sell me stuff

Twitter - new followers and recommendations.
Writing forum - comments and links from fellow writers at Musa Publishing.
People trying to sell me stuff - things I haven't asked for.

A few simple email rules would take the overwhelming majority of those emails straight out of my inbox and into subfolders. Only two things hold me back:
1. What if I missed something urgent?
2. When would I get the time to read them!

How do you manage your emails?

Is that the time? *

I've been meaning to post something, but I've been busy...thinking...

I have a confession to make: I'm doing okay as a writer.

There, I've said it - I feel better. 

That's not classic British underplay and it's based upon my expectations of being a writer (i.e not based upon money or any other external factor that I can't directly control). I'm coming up with new ideas, I'm writing and I'm editing. Most importantly, I'm enjoying the ride for its own sake. I meet other writers, swap experiences and pick up tips. It's all pretty ticketty-boo.

I have ebooks that are finding new readers, I have a self-published paperback that has been well received so far, and most of my writing jobs are about things I actually want to write about. The agents and publishers that I've submitted material to were carefully chosen. The edit of my fourth novel, Scars & Stripes, is progressing steadily.

I used to view the writing arena as a series of league tables (much like the ones you used to get with Shoot magazine). And I saw myself in one of the lower leagues - not quite a Sunday team, but definitely an aspiring amateur side. A few things happened last year to render that view obsolete.

I learned how straightforward it can be to self-publish a novel as both an ebook (I used Kindle Select) and a paperback (I used Lightning Source). Pretty much anyone can do it.

I got a regular feature-writing slot, largely through my portfolio and track record.

I got paid £200 for a short story.

I know: yay me.

My point is that sometimes you realise the struggle is either inside your own head, or not really a struggle at all - because you have no leverage or influence over it. You need to know what to focus on, and I find a useful criterion is whether it's something I can personally change. As my mum used to say, "Eat what you can and what you can't eat, leave."

Or, as I'd frame it:

"Let go of your construct of yourself and find out who you really are."

*It is if you have our cooker's clock.

Another side to the story

As apples go, I like 'em.
I was updating LinkedIn, my resume and all the other New Yeareries (I love new words - they're so lexical!) on my list  today and decided to check my Amazon links. 

To my great delight, I found a review of my mid-grade / YA book, Superhero Club. And it got me thinking about how, without a social media presence, writers are missing out on a valuable opportunity to gain feedback from their readers.

As Robert Burns put it: 
O wad some Pow'r the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!

It's one thing to ask your nearest and dearest or your writing group to give you an opinion, but another entirely to see what the paying public think. And while it is undoubtedly true that many early reviews may be from ardent supporters, over time you should get a range of opinions. 

All the reviews below are independent and there may be others at the same link. Oh, and another point, before I go. It's just as important for writers to own their successes as well as their failures. 

Each link is to the review location.

Superhero Club - Amazon

Over the past few months I've come to the conclusion that some of the better books being written are in the YA category. Either that or I'm entering my dotage. It seems that YA authors are more precise in their definitions and much more up to date and savvy than the authors of some other genres. Well, they'd have to be, huh?

Derek Thompson's Superhero Club is a story about misfits, and pings all the notes a lost YA hears as he struggles with growing up. Okay, some of the ploys are a little obvious to a cynical older person e.g. calling a discussion group The Superhero Club to appeal to the present interest in superheroes, thereby uplifting downhearted YAers to the level of above the norm.

But on the whole, this short novel (just the right length for the YA genre) will have readers of either sex nodding as they recognize personality types and older people's habits as well as classroom behavior.

Congratulations to Derek Thomspon for writing a down-to-earth book that will appeal to its target readers.

The Silent Hills - Amazon.com

I really enjoyed this short story. The author skillfully weaves a tale that, while leaving you wondering what is really happening, captures your attention to such a point that you're at the end before you even realize you turned page two. I loved the old-timey feel that the author paints the story into. The details were so vivid that I actually felt like I was there, right alongside the characters. I absolutely loved the ending...if you want to know what I'm talking about, you'll have to read it for yourself ;)

The Silent Hills - Amazon.co.uk

The Silent Hills is a short story that follows one of my favourite themes - an outsider drawn into a remote, country village and its secrets.

The protagonist, Peter Marlow is thrown into the centre of village politics when he accidentally witnesses a violent scene by the side of a lake. This goes on to shape his relationship with the village and its inhabitants.

The tale has some very sinister moments and although I don't always entirely agree with the characters' actions, Thompson does a great job of conveying the motivations for them.

The cover note, "dedicated to the stranger on the train who shared his secrets" adds a lovely touch, leaving you wondering to what extent the chilling tale is based on a true story.

I've read other work by Derek Thompson, for example his sketch showreel, and I think his writing style lends itself well to writing prose and I hope he will do more of it.

All in all, an intriguing little read, and excellent value for money. I will definitely keep a look out for further titles by this author.

The Silent Hills - Amazon.co.uk

The Silent Hills draws the reader in to its quiet, unassuming and rural setting. Then, Hitchcock-like, it stuns you by the savagery of the central act. This is an excellent, well-written short story, which stimulates all the reader's senses and emotions. A truly thrilling read.

The Silent Hills - Musa website

Just finished this - absolutely wonderful! Glued to the page. I loved the journey and the final destination. Wonderful work! You really do NOT know where it is going; each page is a little nerve-wracking mystery. Stayed up too late to finish it... highly recommended.